Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Civ-Mil Spat Resolved

Peter Munson commented on my post, but folks do not always read the comments so I am pasting it here with a thought or two added below:
I understand your concern about civ-mil affairs, but I think that your charge that I am dangerously suggesting that debate should be closed off to non-military types is an overreaction and a bit of a strawman. Part of this can be explained by my annoyance with the R2P crowd, the nature of Twitter, and the barb attached to my statement. I don't literally mean that academics should head down to the recruiters, nor do I mean that they don't rate an opinion. More than a rhetorical jab, it was a rhetorical question, to which the answer is "no." The advocates for intervention will not be materially invested in this course of action. This does not mean that they cannot advocate such a course. Many who aren't materially invested have done the same in the past, from all spectrums of the political and ideological rainbow.

The real barb in my jab/question, though, is at both the civilians and the military. I want the civilians to consider their calls for intervention much more seriously because I do not trust the generals to sufficiently and properly inform debate. Some of this is due to flaws in some generals' conception of the strategic environment in past conflicts. Some of this is due to generals' civ-mil duty to stand back from shaping debate. So when civilians say that they can advocate certain actions, then leave it to the experts to inform policy-makers before a final decision is made, this is disingenuous. The civilian policy elites will shape the debate and hand policy-makers a narrowed set of options. If policy elites have not properly laid out the costs and risks in their advocacy, then the politicians and generals are left with a skewed "decision environment," which institutional factors predispose them to further bollocks up.

So, my rhetorical question was more of a call to the civilian elites to step up to their responsibility of considering the real consequences and second/third order effects of their desires than to really ask them to head to the recruiters or shut up. 
 My response to his response: we have less to disagree about than we did this weekend. I took his comment seriously because of the current context: that Republicans are saying that they would just listen to the Generals (a big mistake); and that there are folks in the military who would not consider the rhetorical point in the email and his blog post to be just rhetorical.  I have had, for instance, people post comments on my occasional op-eds basically saying that I had no right to comment on Canadian or American defence/defense policy because I was not going to serve in the military.  So, the belief is out there, and I mistakenly thought that Munson believed.  Then, when he pointed out that it was a rhetorical move, I still remained seized as I understood his point but also believed and continue to believe that this is not an isolated, very fringe, irrelevant opinion.  Instead, I think it happens to exist in the world and in the minds of people that might matter--candidates, voters, some folks in the media.  Perhaps I was an opportunist to take this one tweet and scream and shout via my various online fora "civs belong in civ-mil" when Munson would not disagree.  

I do think the conversation was informative to me, to Munson, and hopefully to the various folks that follow our tweets and blogs.  I appreciate that he took this random academic seriously, as I took him seriously even if I am often flippant.

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